Myanmar should immediately schedule by-elections in areas where the Union Election Commission (UEC) cancelled the November 8 polls, and ensure the right to vote for all eligible persons, including Rohingya and others disenfranchised under discriminatory laws, said Fortify Rights yesterday.
"Free and fair elections must be held at the earliest opportunity in all areas where they were suspended," said Ismail Wolff, regional director of Fortify Rights.
On October 16, the UEC announced the cancellation of elections in parts of 15 townships in Bago region, Kachin, Kayin [Karen], Mon, Shan, and Rakhine states, saying the areas were "unsafe", and adding it would hold elections there when the situation becomes stable enough.
However, the UEC is yet to commit to a timeframe for the by-elections nor qualify what conditions would constitute "stable enough."
Myanmar's ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), claimed a landslide victory in the November 8 elections, but the authorities denied almost all voting-age Rohingya the right to vote through an arbitrary and discriminatory application of Myanmar's citizenship law.
Global election monitor the Carter Center said the UEC rejected or de-registered 17 candidate nominations on the grounds of applicants' "parents not holding Myanmar citizenship at the time of their birth."
Fortify Rights similarly documented the arbitrary rejection of Rohingya candidates based on false conclusions regarding the citizenship status of their parents.
Rohingyas participated in 2010 nationwide elections in Myanmar, and three Rohingyas served in parliament as recently as 2015. In 2015, the government excluded Rohingyas from voting, running for office, or maintaining Rohingya-led political parties.
Myanmar's continued denial of the Rohingya right to vote or to stand for election is part of its wider persecution of the ethnic group, including its ongoing denial of their existence, said Fortify Rights.
Myanmar has long denied Rohingyas access to full citizenship rights, most recently through National Verification Cards, which effectively identify Rohingyas as foreigners.
The government should amend the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies citizenship right of Rohingyas, to bring it in line with international laws and standards and ensure equal access to full citizenship rights, regardless of ethnic identity, race, or religion, the rights body said.
The right to vote is enshrined in international law and standards, including in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), but Myanmar is not a state party to the ICCPR.
As part of its "transition" to democracy, increased pressure should be placed on the country to ratify relevant international treaties and uphold its responsibility to promote and protect human rights, said Fortify Rights.
"The international community financed this election and has a role to play in rectifying its wrongs," said Ismail Wolff.